I’ve always admired local textiles. The colors, designs, and craftsmanship are so uniquely Filipino and eye-catching that it’s tempting to get yards of it and turn it into all sorts of things. I’m on the hunt for new throw pillows and I’m thinking if I should get some featuring flowers and leaves to complement my growing plant collection or those with traditional Filipino designs.
The thing is, it’s not that easy to find them here. Sure, there are shops that sell some textiles but the best way to see the breadth of local talent is to visit the weavers in their provinces. This weekend, you don’t have to travel far because the 9th Likhang HABI Fair will bring them the weavers and their textiles here.
Lately, I’m beginning to appreciate how sets work in films. I began to notice the nuances of sets (and even wardrobe) and how they affect the story in Black Swan, but I began to obsess over them when I started watching House of Cards. I noticed how Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright’s characters, Frank and Claire Underwood, were positioned during their scenes. Frank was always bathed in dark tones while Claire was constantly in cold colors. If you follow the series, you’ll realize that these reflect their personalities. Once I noticed it, I noticed it everywhere.
I’ve been obsessing over two films lately and how the sets play a considerable role in them. They’re Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommyand Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. They’re different in terms of premise, but both are creepy, exciting, and use gorgeous houses as their setting.
Goodnight Mommy is a German film publicized as having the scariest trailer of the summer. It’s creepy, yes, but it doesn’t do justice to the actual film. It’s intriguing enough when you see the two-minute clip, but it misleads you by promising supernatural horror when it is actually psychological.
At its center is a pair of young twins, whose mother comes back after an extensive facial surgery. The twins become alienated and suspect that she has become a different person. She is wrapped in bandages during the first half of the film, which provides the jitters, but you later wonder who is the actual villain. There’s a heavy sense of foreboding that makes it a gripping watch.
The film is set in the family’s Scandinavian-inspired home in between corn fields and woods. It stands out for its gray stone walls, Eero Saarinen’s hanging bubble chairs, and use of wood. There are also references to the mother’s obsession with her looks, like artist models, a large photo of the mother (with the face blurred), and a wire mannequin. The house’s minimalism reflects the film’s lack of emotion, which heightens the unease.
Like Goodnight Mommy, Ex Machina follows the Scandivanian school of thought. But instead of being surrounded by the lush corn fields and the warm glow of the sun, Ex Machina is in a vast fjord in the middle of Norway, surrounded by large boulders, icy mountains, the rush of a river, and an endless forest.
The mansion is home to Nathan, the CEO of a tech company looking to explore artificial intelligence. He brings in Caleb Smith, a talented but gawky coder who must administer a test to the robot Ava and see if she could pass off as human. The film, although sci-fi, focuses more on its philosophy rather than impressive CGI. It touches on morality and mortality, and is even more interesting as it is applied to AI. It’s cerebral and terrifying.
The mansion (a hotel in real life), is constructed in a way that offers top-notch amenities and a breathtaking view without interrupting the topography. In fact, the architecture is so seamless that some of the walls are the boulders from outside!
Like the house in Goodnight Mommy, the house in Ex Machina is cold and unfeeling (notice how Nathan and Caleb wear only neutral colors) and it strikes a great contrast against the majestic shots of nature. It shows how luxurious living can peacefully co-exist with the natural world. I just wish the relationship between AI and human life would be the same.
It’s rewarding to see films that pay attention to even the smallest details. Goodnight Mommy and Ex Machina show how settings and wardrobe can convey moods and symbolism. It reminds me of this writing article I read a few days ago: it’s all about the details.
I spent a lot of time this week at Green Sun, the events space and hotel along Chino Roces Avenue in Makati. I was there because one of the brands I’m handling launched its first celebrity brand endorser there, so our client scheduled a lot of our meetings at the venue.
I passed by the building every day when I interned at Rogue and I found the structure intriguing. I was put off by its complete lack of windows and its logo: a green circle that… represented the sun. Even if I wasn’t partial to its suffocating architecture and its logo, I found its industrial vibe fascinating.
Carla de Guzman is the author of Cities, a self-published book on parallel universes. In the story, Carla explores personal choices and their consequences, which are different in other universes. The novella is set in the intoxicating cities of Seoul, London, New York, and Manila, the perfect backdrop to a story of unrequited love. I talked to Carla to discuss her book, the challenges of self-publishing, her favorite city, and her favorite place to work.
Can you tell us more about the book?
Cities is a love story. It’s a love story of four characters, and how their choices change their lives across different cities that they live in. It’s an exploration of ‘what ifs’ and finding a way to deal with situations that we can’t control.
Why did you choose to set the story in different cities and timelines?
I knew I wanted to write a love story, but I didn’t want it to be a conventional story. Parallel worlds were always fascinating to me, and the idea that there’s a version of myself living the lives I wanted was sad enough that I thought to explore it.
Why Seoul, London, and New York?
I chose Seoul because I wanted to have my own, slightly Western adaptation of the classic Korean drama Love Square. It’s what convinced me to add Henry and Vivian to the story mix, really, and it was one of the very first things I decided when I chose to expand Cities [from a short story]. It couldn’t have been anywhere else. London came into play after my own trip there. It was a city that captured my heart, and I wanted to let Ben and Celia play out their story there. The outcome changes because Celia has to be closer knit to Vivian than anyone–which I think wouldn’t quite be the same in other cities. As for New York, it was a city that wowed me so much that it scared me a little. I thought it was the perfect place to test Celia and Ben’s relationship.
Where did you get the idea for the novella?
I got it from a Thought Catalog article. This person wished that there was another universe where the they loved a certain person back. It was heartbreaking. And it got me wondering about my own ‘what ifs.’
What’s your favorite city?
London! I think my bias shows a bit, as it’s the longest chapter in the book. But it’s such a fascinating city for me, and still has a lot to offer.
Cities was self-published. Why did you decide to self-publish it, and what were some of the challenges of self-publishing?
The decision to self-publish came with the realization that (I felt) there wasn’t a place in the Philippines that would treat the book the way I wanted. I decided to self publish to have full control over my story, market it the way I wanted. That was the challenge. While I knew how to manage the business side of things, I didn’t know anything about self-publishing. It felt a lot like riding a bike without training wheels the first time. Add my own insecurities and fears and you’ve got yourself a challenge!
Did any book inspire you for Cities?
I know that I should say otherwise, but I am a very very shallow reader. I read fanfiction and only a few books, all the other time I write. Alternate Universe is a common fanfiction genre that I think in of influenced the idea of parallel universes for me.
Where do you usually work?
On the desk, in bed with my iPad, or in our family dining table when I feel like bonding with my siblings.
Your desk is actually a bureau in the shape of a suitcase. That’s so interesting. Can you tell us more about it?
The desk is actually my mother’s, given to me when we moved to our current room a couple of months ago. I’ve always loved escritorios or secretary’s desks and when she offered, I couldn’t say no! The desk itself belonged to a client who gave it to us in lieu of professional fees. Much like a suitcase, there’s a key hidden in a leather bag on the handle in front of the desk.
What’s on your desk?
Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks! I have a bad addiction of buying notebooks without filling up the last one. That and two boxes full of pens, pencils, paintbrushes, watercolour and calligraphy ink. Our family has a thing where we all draw and doodle, and this is a manifestation of that.
I read that you designed your room. How did you design it?
When we found out that we were moving rooms, I had two things in mind. One that my older sister (who is in the room with me) wanted ‘all white’, and that the bed we were getting was this ultra ornate old thing from my grandfather. So I worked around that, adding in what we already had in hand, plus a few DIYs. I always liked monotone and uniform colours, playing only with textures, and that’s what I tried to do here.
What are some of your favourite DIY projects?
I love DIY-ing clothes. [Laughs] Pencil skirts are easier than you think to make, and so are simple t-shirts. That and phone cases. My phone case right now is a clear plastic case that I painted with white acrylic–it looks really nice and unique, and I love that!
You also collect postcards. What’s your favourite?
My favourite has to be the cherry blossom postcard I got from Washington DC. It looks so unique, since it was a design from the 1920’s, and the colours are so vibrant. I’m never sending that one out!
Cities explores parallel universes. In a parallel world, what would you be doing?
In a parallel world, I would be writing scripts for Doctor Who, the Catherine Tate Show and Broadchurch in London while travelling to Paris for the weekend. [Laughs] Dream big, right?
Carla de Guzman’s Cities is available in print and via Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Amazon. To purchase, email the author at email@example.com.
Some time during the holidays, my man and I decided to have dinner at Motorino in Greenbelt. I first saw Motorino in Hong Kong, when we were walking around Wan Chai looking for the Monocle Shop in St. Francis Yard. You could easily spot it because it looked gleaming amidst the quiet storefronts of the other shops.
Motorino is a New York pizzeria that opened its second international location in Manila last year. I didn’t hear much about it because I’m not exactly a foodie, but my man and I found ourselves there, hungry after watching English Only, Please (the film was good).
As I keep mentioning, my idea of food is either good, okay, or bad, and Motorino was… okay. We had the margherita pizza and it was… okay. Maybe because it was a boring pie, but I’ve had other good margheritas from other pizzerias. Gino’s is still my favorite pizzeria that isn’t a chain (for chains, I love Papa John’s).
But I did love Motorino’s interiors. Rather than stick to a traditional pizza space with lots of wood, Motorino beautifully contrasts it with a wrought silver ceiling. The tables also have beautiful iron pedestal bases, adding a modern touch to what would otherwise be a warm space.
Of course, Motorino still looks like your neighborhood pizzeria. It has your chalkboard with the company logo and the menu, wire lamps, and pizza paddles. But the space is elevated with the silver ceiling, which becomes an exclamation point to a predominantly rustic look. Come on, we all love shiny things, right?
I love room/linen sprays. The sense of smell is a very powerful memory trigger and can bring back memories upon encountering smells associated with that event. I also like fragrances because pleasant ones are very relaxing. I always have a few candles and room sprays, which I light up or spray every night and when I need to relax.
The people around me know my obsession with smell, and they usually buy me fragrances to add to my collection. I have lavender (my all-time favorite scent), aloe, dalandan, flowers, and green apple.
This week alone, I added two more to my collection: citronella and lemongrass. The citronella is from my publicist friend, who gave me a bottle of Wild to Mild’s organic room spray after working together for one of her clients. My mother gave me Essencia’s lemongrass room and car spray, which she bought in the bazaar at the Cuenca Community Park in Ayala Alabang. I strongly support locally-made products and was glad to know both are made in the Philippines.
Citronella has a refreshing citrus scent. It’s a great way to start the day with this in the air because of its light aroma. Citronella doubles as an anti-depressant because it fights anxiety, sadness, and negative feelings. I’m also prone to mosquito bites so it helps, as the oil repels the insect.
Lemongrass, on the other hand, has a heavier scent. It reminds you of Thai food, but I love Thai food! The smell is strong when you put your nose near the bottle, but it gently dissipates when you spray it, leaving only a faint and pleasant aroma. I like spraying it on my pillows a few minutes before lying down, because by then, it would have absorbed and what’s left is a delicious scent that makes me want to relax. Or eat Thai.
Strangely, Wild to Mild’s online presence listed on the bottle doesn’t exist, but if you want to know where to get this, just leave a comment below. You may read more about Essencia’s lemongrass room and car spray here.
Adam Kalkin Old Lady House Modern Shipping Container
Lately I’ve been thinking about container homes. Basically, they’re homes made from shipping containers, the ones that are used to transport items. They are usually attached to trucks, trains, or ships. Who would have thought they could be transformed into living spaces?
Apparently, Phillip C. Clark did, in 1987, when he filed for a patent. Today, people all over the world have turned containers into homes, and they are beautiful.
The Savannah Project, Architect PSP in New York and Florida
All you need to do is get one container (or two or three, depending on your need), prop it on a piece of land, and accessorize.
The benefits of container homes are many: they are cheaper than conventional construction, and are stronger and more durable. They can carry heavy loads, can be stacked in high columns, and withstand harsh environments. They are also modular so it is easy to design them according to your whim.
Shipping container guest house by Jim Poteet
In the Philippines, used containers range around P80,000. You can buy them anywhere, especially at coastal areas. However, because of the tropical climate, container homes must be carefully insulated because steel conducts heat. But with careful planning of insulation, irrigation, and installation of sockets, a container home can be a beautiful alternative to the usual brick and mortar structure.
I would love to own a container home when I finally decide to get my own place. I’d get one or two orange or blue containers, stacked right next to each other. I’ll add a little wooden porch in the front, with pots of flowers. I’m hoping there will be lush greenery around the home.
The interior would be roomy: white walls with light-brown wooden plank floors. The inside will be homey, in contrast to the industrial feel of the exterior of the house. I will have a little black couch, some nice leafy plants in pots, and a bookshelf filled with books and paintings.
I will have a wooden writing desk, and a small nook for cooking and eating.
My bedroom would be equally sparse, with a white bed (linen sheets!), a tabletop for some books, and one wall lined with prints and paintings.
I’m still thinking whether I should add a TV. There will be wi-fi. And two bathrooms.